Monday, November 24, 2014

Scholarship Activities in Chirijquiac, Cantel

Text and Photos by Amy Scheuren

Last Wednesday morning Carmencita and I traveled to La Estancia, Cantel for the last scholarship meeting for the Chirijquiac group.  We held the meeting at the home of a relative of a one of scholarship families.  Normally we meet in Chirijquiac, but to our surprise we found that the mothers were cooking a special lunch for us to celebrate the end of the school year! 

Last year, the Chirijquiac group had its first high school graduate.  This year, three more young women are graduating from high school.  Congratulations to Carolina, Mayra, and Yesica!  We received final grades for nearly all of the students and talked individually with the students, asking about educational plans and options for next year.

Scholarship students

While the students worked on their letters to their padrinos and and madrinas (sponsors), Don Gonzalo spoke about the history of the group, which started before Pop Wuj became involved.  Pop Wuj and the community group found each other over 20 years ago and many family members of current students have also received educational support.  It has primarily been a group of female students, but now there are a few boys in the group as well.

Don Gonzalo speaking about the history of the group

Working on letters for their sponsors

Carmencita also talked about the importance of education and completing high school.  We highlighted teen pregnancy and early marriage as one of the tragedies of Guatemala.  It has been and continues to be customary in some parts of Guatemala for a girl to perhaps complete primary school, only to be told explicitly and implicitly that now it's time to start a family.  Or if a teenage girl becomes pregnant, the problem is considered "fixed" if she gets married and moves in with the husband's family.

We see young pregnant girls in the Pop Wuj clinic.  We meet and work with 15- and 16-year-old mothers in the nutrition program.  We conduct stove interviews with mothers who had their first child at age 13.  These young girls are usually malnourished and giving birth to malnourished babies.  The health and nutrition issues associated with early pregnancy are obvious, but what of the other consequences?  Fewer years of education for the mother as well as fewer economic possibilities.  A child's outcomes improve as the level of education of the mother increases.  A less educated mother means lower outcomes for the next generation.  Emotional immaturity, family instability, and domestic violence are other widespread consequences in Guatemala.

This group, with four female high school graduates, is an example of the students' and parents' efforts to combat the social and educational issues facing Guatemala--especially rural, indigenous Guatemala.  Finally, Carmencita urged the students to not only think individually, but also collectively in order to improve their communities.

Enjoying lunch in the outdoor kitchen

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